What you need to know:
Before planting, you should ensure that the suckers are clean, and free from pests and diseases. Your suckers should be cleaned by paring (cutting off all the roots and peeling off the outer layer of the corm).
Bananas are perennial herbs and grow up to five metres or more. Banana is one of the major food security crops in Uganda as the crop supplies food to people almost all the time.
Aside from food, bananas in Africa are used to produce local brew, and these crops also supplement animal feed.
The East African Highland Banana: these are the most dominant in the region especially in Uganda. They include the cooking type (Matooke) and the brewing type (Mbidde) and these two types are physically similar.
The plantains: (e.g. Gonja) these are mostly grown in the highlands of Kasese in Uganda, the crop is not widely grown and is eaten roasted.
The cultivars of the East African coast: these include the edible Sukalindizi dessert banana eaten ripe, kisubi a brewing type, kayinja also a brewing type and kivuvu a cooking and brewing type.
You will need the appropriate climate, the right soils and your land should be well prepared.
Agro Climate: Banana grows best at a temperature of about 27°C. Banana grows best when they receive 1500-2500mm rain per year which is well distributed over the year. The crop grows best where relative humidity is at least over 60 percent.
Soil requirements: Banana requires a deep, well drained loam soil with high humus content. Banana best grows in soil pH ranging from about 5.6-7.5. It doesn’t tolerate acidic soil. The crop needs an adequate supply of potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
Land preparation: Land should be slashed and prepared without burning to protect organic matter. About two ploughings are sufficient to provide a good seed bed for banana.
You can propagate your bananas vegetatively or by breeding. The vegetative method, however, is the commonest among our farmers, and you will be able to use any of these planting materials below:
Peepers; these are very young suckers appearing above the ground with scale leaves only.
Sword suckers; these are formed from buds or eyes low on corm and bear narrow elongated leaves, these are usually 30 and 60 cm tall.
Maiden sucker; these are relatively old with greater than 60cm and when used for propagation it’s advised that the leaves should be cut off to minimise water loss.
Water suckers; these are young with broad leaves and arise from the top parts of the corms. Always avoid planting these types of suckers as they are usually easy to dislodge from the mother plant and are usually weak.
Before planting, you should ensure that the suckers are clean, and free from pests and diseases.
Your suckers should be cleaned by paring (cutting off all the roots and peeling off the outer layer of the corm). Paring should be done until all tunnels made by weevils have been removed. The pared suckers should be hot water treated to kill nematodes.
Nowadays suckers raised by tissue culture are available, are clean and good planting materials for bananas.
The best time for planting your bananas will depend on your local climatic conditions.
In areas with pronounced dry season and yet irrigation is not possible, you will typically plant at the beginning of the rains.
• You will plant your bananas in holes dug by hand. Your banana holes should be roughly (45x45x45) cm, with a recommended spacing of (3x3) cm.
• Mix well rotten manure or compost (1-2) tins with top soil and return it to the hole.
• Put the sucker in the middle of the hole and cover with the rest of the soil.
Here we discuss how you will desucker, how to mulch, how to stake, how to bag, how to deflower and how to apply fertilisers on your plantation.
Desuckering: This involves uprooting of excess suckers from a banana mat, you will do this in order to suit the harvest frequency. Removing of the side shoot is done until the emergence of flowers 1-3 stems at most per mat (i.e. the bearing one, the follower and the sucker).
Mulching: This is used to conserve moisture in the soils, and to reduce rainfall runoff to avoid erosion. Mulch also improves the soil as the mulch material rots. However, mulch is known to serve as breeding place for banana weevils and other pests. Additionally, if you placed your mulch too close to the mother plant it will affect the growth of the young suckers.
Staking: Bananas are susceptible to winds and should be staked to provide extra support to the banana stems. Banana cultivars that bear very big bunches are most susceptible to heavy winds. You normally do your banana staking using a forked pole.
Bagging: This involves majorly covering the banana bunch with a treated polythene bag to minimise sooty mold (Furry growth of fungus), insect damage and abrasion injury to the fruits.
Deflowering: Once all the fingers have developed the rest of the inflorescence including the male flower bud) should be removed to reduce incidences of fungus and insect attack.
Fertiliser requirements: Bananas absorb a lot of nutrients from the soil. Therefore, there is need to for you to replenish the soil using external sources such as the farmyard manure, crop residues, homestead and kitchen refuse. You should never apply manure too close to the banana mat as this would encourage banana weevils to breed and will also result in the high mat condition.
Your bananas should mature within 3-6 months.
Mature bananas are hard; the flower bract is dry and breaks off easily from the fruit tip.
Harvest your banana bunches with a curved knife, or a sharp panga, you will need to cut the bunch stem carefully.